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Marcia Wilson Lebow

Marcia Wilson Lebow Obituary
Lebow, Marcia Wilson
Marcia Wilson Lebow, pianist, musicologist, teacher and writer, died on August 6 at the age of 90.

Marcia was born in Somerville, Massachusetts on March 11, 1919, and grew up in Dorchester. Her parents, Frank and Hattie Wilson, recognized her musical abilities and saw to it she received piano lessons from an early age. At the same time Marcia received the sort of education that is practically unobtainable nowadays. A product of Boston Latin School (Class of '36), she learned Latin, French and German, and was fully grounded in the humanities before entering Radcliffe College (Class of '40; MA, 1941). Marcia, a child of the Great Depression, had at first only enough money to attend Radcliffe for one year; her wit, redoubtable work ethic, and the efforts of a well-wishing administrator ensured a full scholarship for four years. Commuting from Blue Hill Ave., she became the only woman in Nadia Boulanger's Harvard composition seminar, which also included her high school chum Leonard Bernstein, Irving Fine and Harold Shapero.

During WW II she worked for the Pan-American Union in Washington, D.C., researching Latin American music. In 1947 she married Ralph Lebow, an MIT engineering graduate, and followed his career opportunities first to Ohio, where their two children were born, then in 1953 to Pacific Palisades. Following Ralph's early death in 1965, and with two teenaged kids, Marcia earned a PhD in systematic musicology from UCLA. After starting the docent program for the LA Philharmonic, she began a thriving series of private lecture-recitals, a sort of music appreciation class for intellectually probing adults interested in coming to grips with the avant-garde and other less familiar offerings of the Philharmonic.

A further transformation awaited her in later life. A re-reading of the novelist George Eliot led her to major research into Eliot's use of music and musical devices in her works. Though Marcia completed several chapters of a book and presented scholarly papers at conferences here and in England, the encroachment of Alzheimer's disease over the past 8 years--a darkly ironic affliction for one such as she--prevented her from completing her work.

Marcia was a person of strong passions--for music, family and friends--and strong convictions. The English language was not only her great joy, but an armada to be deployed at will. None of her friends need ever doubt her thoughts, at least at that moment. Such was her physical energy throughout her life, even at the end, that we may be forgiven the fleeting feeling that she may now only be taking a breather. Besides her husband, she was predeceased by her daughter Lisa, who died at age 49 in 2002. She is survived by her son Roger, his wife Wendy Schorr, and their son Theo of Sierra Madre, a tenor whose voice she loved, and who carries on to the next generation the musical art she held so dear.

Published in the Los Angeles Times from Aug. 23 to Aug. 24, 2009
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